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Caterer Starts Soup Kitchen

Divinity Students Help Feed Homeless

By Roger G. Kuo

A year and a half ago, Lee Hourhian found a way to help the increasing numbers of homeless in Cambridge who were the victims of institutional cutbacks.

Hourhian, who owns the Keenebunk Company--a private catering company which serves the Harvard Divinity School--founded a soup kitchen to provide a healthy meal for more than 100 homeless people every Tuesday night.

Running the soup kitchen "has turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences in my life," she said.

"I started the program one-and-a-half years ago in order to give back to the community and to help people who don't get help," Hourhian said. "I saw people getting let out of institutions because of cutbacks and saw how wasteful throwing away food from [the Divinity School cateteria] was, so I decided to start the kitchen."

Today, about fifteen students from the Business and Divinity Schools and the College volunteer to help run the soup kitchen each week. Hourhian emphasized that the program would not be the same without the Harvard students, whom she calls the "main-stay" of her program.

But Hourhian said that she can always use more volunteers. "They can help out by baking cookies or setting tables or placing flowers," she said, adding that volunteers are particularly scarce when the area colleges are not in session.

Hourhian emphasizes that the soup kitchen is different from ordinary homeless food programs. "It's more like a restaurant service than anything," she said. "We actually seat people who come in and serve them healthy, good food that isn't just institutional food."

And Siobhan Murphy, the manager of the Keenebunk Company said, "It's much more than simply dishing out food. It really benefits the community."

The catering company runs the soup kitchen as a community effort said Hourhian. Neighboring restaurants and local foundations donate food and supplies for the meals. She said that Food for Free, an organization that picks up food from vendors willing to donate, is an especially helpful sponsor.

The soup kitchen is held at the First Parish Unitarian Church every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Hourhian said that she had difficulty initially in finding a location for the community effort.

"Churches couldn't agree on whether or not to sponsor such a program," she said. "Their congregations were concerned with the security problem involved with having homeless people served in a soup kitchen."

The First Parish Unitarian Church had a better location and more open-minded members than most others, Hourhian said.

Hourhian said she feels that the program is now "running beautifully" and hopes to expand the soup kitchen to two nights a week by next year.

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